It is easy to rag on Vermont. The cold. Taxes. High costs. Lack of diversity. No sun. But as the state with the least number of Covid-19 cases, and a state generally regarded as the safest, we’re looking pretty good. We’re not a state full of fools who have yet to figure out that masks are for protecting others, not Everclear filters, and that washing one’s hands applies to people other than surgeons, and that promoting close-quarter Covid parties isn’t the brightest idea.

But, as we watch other states implode, prompting some — like California, Texas and Florida — to roll back the reopening of their economies, Vermonters should recall what we did to be regarded as a state that handled the crisis best and how can that be played to our advantage.

Basically, we shut things down. Fast. And everyone bought in, thanks to good leadership. The place was deserted. If we had it to do all over again, knowing what we know, we would have done a better job of protecting the most vulnerable, meaning those in nursing homes, etc. Our death toll could have been reduced substantially. We just didn’t know. We do now.

As we look at what’s happening in other states — with their uncharted jump in new Covid-19 cases — our response is that we don’t want what they have. It’s been more than a month since our last Covid-related death. Two people are in the hospital. Our schools are slated to open mid-August with regular in-person learning. That will allow parents to return to work knowing their children will not lose any more of their education.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles and San Diego just announced their schools will not be open in the fall; they will repeat the remote learning process of this past spring. Other states in the south and west, will do the same, and it will be widespread if the virus continues to rage on.

That should scare the wits out of all Americans. That should terrify anyone who considers the damage that would come about should we have to go into a second lockdown. And it would anger Vermonters in particular because we’d end up paying the price.

All because we have an administration that has continually led us astray, and a president who has just now figured out how to wear a mask.

The irony is that the Trump administration is predicating its general election hopes on people being able to return to a sense of normalcy. The decision to throw caution to the wind has been a disaster. We’re now the planet’s example of how not to handle the pandemic. Experts are openly worried not only about a second wave in the fall, but the continuation of what’s happening presently, which in many states is worse than it was in New York City in March.

If there is a single message Vermont can send forth, self-serving as it is, it would center around our interest and success in promoting public safety, the transparency of our leadership, and our reputation for an enviable education system.

We mentioned this when the south kept getting swept off the map with its hurricanes. We said it when the west was in flames and water supplies were short.

If the pandemic has shoved us into a world where working remotely becomes the norm, or at least widely accepted, then what are we doing to market the qualities most families rank highest, which are public safety, quality of education, and a sense of normalcy.

The question is raised because it’s unclear what other options we have. In New England we are the state most dependent on tourism, which directly affects our hospitality industry, which affects about 10 percent of our entire workforce. We’re also highly dependent on higher education.

We need to market the messages that will benefit us the most. We have nothing to lose.

by Emerson Lynn

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